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Hong Kong localism and independence

Carrie Lam’s popularity dips to lowest level since she became leader of Hong Kong – but it’s still higher than her predecessor

Slump in support comes amid heightened tensions in the city after university students call for Hong Kong to break away from Chinese rule

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 9:43pm

Public confidence in Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has dipped by as much as 8 percentage points to reach its lowest level since she took office on July 1.

The slump in support came amid heightened tensions in the city after some university students called for Hong Kong to break away from Chinese rule.

Both Lam’s popularity rating and the level of public confidence in her were at a record low since the start of her term almost three months ago, according to the latest edition of the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme, done from September 12 to 15.

Lam’s public confidence or approval rate – the difference between a vote of confidence or no confidence in an individual – plunged 8 percentage points to 7 per cent compared with two weeks ago, with an approval rate of about 47 per cent and a disapproval rate of about 41 per cent.

This was the first time Lam’s approval rate had reached a single digit in three months. She enjoyed a 19 per cent of approval rate when she took office in early July.

Lam’s popularity also dropped by 2.6 marks, to 56.4 out of 100 in two weeks. The highest mark reached was 63.7 in early July.

Lam, however, still appeared to be enjoying a honeymoon period compared with her predecessor Leung Chun-ying. According to the same programme in 2012, Leung’s popularity dropped to 46 marks after almost three months in office.

Why the campus feud between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students?

Regarding people’s appraisal of the overall performance of the government, the latest figures revealed that 40 per cent were satisfied and 37 per cent were dissatisfied, meaning net satisfaction dropped by 7 percentage points. The net trust of the government dipped further by 11 percentage points, with 44 per cent expressing trust and 38 distrust.

The fall in ratings followed a row over the handling of an independence debate at university campuses in the city. It was ignited after at least three large black banners bearing the words “Hong Kong Independence” in Chinese and English appeared in Chinese University on September 5 as the new school year kicked off. It then spread to other institutions.

At the time, Lam said posting such messages on university noticeboards was not a question of freedom of speech, saying advocacy of a breakaway had violated the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. The controversy prompted the heads of 10 universities to release a joint statement against “Hong Kong independence” on September 15, which Lam voiced support for.

Student union removes Hong Kong independence banner – but warns it may come back

Speaking before the weekly meeting with her cabinet on Tuesday morning, Lam said she agreed with remarks made by the new chief of Beijing’s office for Hong Kong affairs, Zhang Xiaoming, that advocates of independence were “intolerable”.

When asked how the government will tackle these individuals, Lam said it had to be handled under the city’s rule of law in, urging the public – most of whom are in agreement that there were no room for independence – to speak out against the advocacy.